Sep 162015


Two themes run through The Secret Seduction and the Enigma of Attraction”—Goethe’s “Elective Affinities” (1809),  (I call it the enigma of attraction), where atoms seek each other and connect, whether it is matter, animal or human beings. Two people find each other and great passions arise, suffering too, and undying love. You can see it in the great love stories—Romeo & Juliet, Heloise & Abelard, Tristan & Isolde, Cleopatra  & Antony, Orpheus & Eurydice. All of these stories, or myths, have tragic endings.

The other theme is what can happen during psychotherapy when two people are alone together and great intimacy occurs. Freud set a taboo—if the bounds were broken, an irreperable damage would occur.

I was fascinated when reading through the story of Tristan and Isolde how much it resonated with what happens in The Secret Seduction and the Enigma of Attraction. “There are certain things which Fate determines on very obstinately. Reason and virtue, duty and everything holy standing its way in vain. Something is set to happen as Fate sees fit but which to us does not seem fit; and at length it will accomplish its own end however we behave,” wrote Goethe. “Affinities are only really interesting when they bring about separations.”

Tristan and Isolde (from AmO Life)

tristanThe tragic love story of Tristan and Isolde has been told and retold through various stories and manuscripts. It takes place during medieval times during the reign of King Arthur. Isolde of Ireland was the daughter of the King of Ireland. She was betrothed to King Mark of Cornwall. King Mark sent his nephew, Tristan, to Ireland to escort Isolde back to Cornwall. During the voyage, Isolde and Tristan fell forever in love. Isolde did marry Mark of Cornwall, but could not help but love Tristan. The love affair continued after the marriage. When King Mark finally learned of the affair, he forgave Isolde, but Tristan was banned from Cornwall. Tristan went to Brittany. There he met Iseult of Brittany. He was attracted to her because of the similarity of her name to his true love. He married her, but did not consummate the marriage because of his love for the “true” Isolde. After falling ill, he sent for Isolde in hopes that she would be able to cure him. If she agreed to come, the returning ship’s sails would be white, or the sails would be black if she did not agree. Iseult, seeing the white sails, lied to Tristan and told him that the sails were black. He died of grief before Isolde could reach him. Isolde died soon after of a broken heart.

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